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Brussels blocks 15 million to Poland for not complying with European justice

Mateusz Morawiecki and Ursula Von der Leyen, during a meeting last year. / Reuters

The EU goes from warnings to sanctions and withholds aid aimed at the recovery of the country for its refusal to close a coal mine

No more warnings and wake-up calls. The European Commission notified Poland on Tuesday that it will retain the first 15 million euros of European funds planned for this country for ignoring a decision of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU). The high court ruling forced Warsaw to close a coal mine near the border with the Czech Republic and Germany due to its environmental impact and the risk it posed to public health. Once the decision has been communicated to the Polish authorities, the funds will be blocked within the next ten days.

The Brussels slap on the wrist is an unprecedented measure that seeks to bring Poland, the only member state that has disobeyed the CJEU to date, to heel. The blockade of the first 15 million also serves to compensate part of the fine imposed on the country by the Luxembourg court, which increases by 500,000 euros every day as long as Poland continues to fail to comply with the sentence.

The Community Budget spokesman, Balazs Ujvari, reported on Tuesday that, with his decision, the EU Executive _ limits itself “to fulfilling its legal obligation” to collect the sanctions dictated by European justice.

The case of the judges

This is not the only litigation that the CJEU has open against the country. The ultra-conservative Polish government has also been sanctioned another 69 million euros for not dismantling a disciplinary regime for Polish judges that the EU considers a risk to the rule of law.

On this occasion, the dispute focuses on the Turów coal mine, located on Polish territory, but close to the border with the Czech Republic and Germany. The European justice issued precautionary measures to paralyze its activity in September of last year, due to the environmental and public health risk it posed. However, the operation is still active.

Moreover, Poland extended the mine activity license until 2026 in breach of European regulations, which require a prior impact assessment to be carried out. The exploitation also contaminates groundwater that reaches the Czech Republic, for which the country filed a lawsuit against Warsaw. To withdraw its complaint, Prague demanded the payment of 45 million euros for the damage caused, in addition to the construction of a fence to prevent contamination.

European justice decreed the closure of the mine until Warsaw made its compensation effective. Once again, Poland refused these terms, claiming that exploitation is key to the country’s energy stability. It remains to be seen to what extent the Executive of Mateusz Morawiecki will be able to keep the pulse with the EU, more so now that the 36,000 million euros of recovery funds that the country should receive depend on it.


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